Cases of COVID-19 infection continue to climb in Vietnam following a new outbreak of the pandemic on Jan. 28, with 45 new cases discovered just in the last day, over 10 of them of them in southern Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, sources in the country say.
The total number of confirmed infections in Vietnam has now risen to 2,050 in 11 separate provinces or cities, with 35 reported deaths, according to state media quoting Vietnam’s National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
“Everyone here is very anxious,” Vo Xuan Son—a doctor at the city’s EXSON International Medical Clinic—told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday. “In Saigon, over 10 COVID cases were reported only this morning,” Vo added, referring to Ho Chi Minh City by an older name.
“No one knows why the pandemic has broken out again, because people are getting contradictory information,” Vo said, adding, “It may have been surging again for a while now, resulting in [so many] people being found positive in a single day.”
“The problem with the outbreak here is that we don’t know yet where it started. The virus this time doesn’t appear to be the UK variant, so people think that what we’re seeing now may have been around for a long time.”
Vo said it is too soon to predict how effective attempts at controlling the new outbreak will be. “But surely handling the epidemic in Ho Chi Minh City this time will be more complicated than it was in Chi Linh City or in Da Nang, which were hit a few months ago,” he said, adding that lines of transmission have been difficult to trace.
“I stay at home all day because of the spread of COVID-19,” one city resident told RFA. “Local authorities are not releasing much information about the pandemic or about the positive cases in the community,” he said.
“The anti-pandemic measures now in place are the same ones we’ve had for a long time.”
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called on Monday for city medical services to take stronger measures to control the further spread of the disease, enforcing social distancing in some parts of the city.
Also on Monday, Vuong Dinh Hue—Communist Party chief in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi—warned that city authorities would deal harshly with anyone found not to have declared their condition of health within 12 days of a diagnosis of infection.
Law-enforcement authorities in Hanoi last week proposed 15 penalties in cases of residents deliberately concealing cases of infection, with fines going as high as VND $200 million and prison terms going up to 20 years, state media said.
More vaccines from China
The government of Laos has meanwhile received an additional 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China—most of it for use by persons designated high-risk individuals, including health workers and officials working at the border-crossings with neighboring countries.
The new batch follows a delivery at the end of January of 2,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine used to vaccinate health workers at a special COVID-19 unit in a 150-bed hospital in Vientiane.
Lao officials are now meeting to decide how to distribute the vaccines, an official from the country’s Department of Health told RFA’s Lao Service on Monday, adding that these will be given to “high-risk” groups first.
“They will be looking first for medical workers and others who work with high-risk persons in hospitals and clinics around the country,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Though members of the general public, migrant workers, and persons over 65 years of age will not be vaccinated for now, “they are being considered,” he added.
The official told RFA that he had already received the vaccine himself, and that while he suffered no side effects, there had been “some minor problems, including a dryness of the skin after the injection, that have already been cleared up.”
“There is still a risk of infection, though, since the World Health Organization has said these vaccines don’t provide 100 percent protection,” he said.
Also speaking to RFA, a health official in the capital Vientiane said that he will receive the vaccine soon himself, adding that though he has confidence in the vaccine, he will still continue to protect himself from infection.
“Even after we are vaccinated, we will have to wear our N95 mask whenever we go anywhere. We don’t dare take any risks,” he said.
Health officials in Luang Prabang and Savannakhet provinces said they are also looking forward to receiving the vaccine, and that they believe the vaccinations while not 100 percent effective will protect them from severe cases of infection even if they fall ill.
China has promised to eventually send Laos 1,500,000 doses of their COVID-19 vaccine—enough to vaccinate 10 percent of the country’s population—and shipments of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and vaccines from the WHO-backed COVAX organization are expected to arrive in April.
Laos has so far reported a total of 45 cases of COVID-19 infection, with four cases still being treated in hospital for mild symptoms, and 41 reported cured.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese and Lao Service. Translated by Huy Le and Sidney Khotpanya. Written in English by Richard Finney.